Rabari, a nomadic pastoral embroidery becomes a font
Dhebaria Rabari: A Hand Embroidered Font
Region: Sumrasar-Shiekh, Kutch, Gujarat, India
Rabaris are a pastoral community from Jaisalmer. Although there are many subgroups in the community, they all identify themselves as Rabari – ek doe e bandhaanyela Rabari (one thread binds us all). The Rabari led a nomadic life in search of pasture for their sheep and camels, and the women practiced embroidery as an expression of their culture. Just as cattle was an important aspect of the Rabari’s wealth, so was embroidery. Every young girl learned it at her mother’s knee. The glittering pieces that a girl embroidered for her dowry were considered a contribution to the marriage exchange.
In the early 1990s, elders of the Dhebaria subgroup decided that the women would no longer embroider for personal use, because women usually could not get married until they had made their annu (trousers), which took a long time. Rabari embroidery used to be very dense and time-consuming, and the women had a repertoire of motifs that included the camel, peacock, parrot and scorpion, forms of jewellery, temples and trees. A pattern was first drawn with a stick dipped in mud and detailed designs were created as they went along. Chireli sakali, an open-chain stitch was used for the outline, stitches like herringbone to fill in the motifs with vibrant colours, and mirrors for highlighting the work. No two embroideries were the same.